David Baxter, Executive Director,
David Baxter on the waterfront.
The Urban Futures Institute, on
the Value of Waterfront.
"In Vancouver, access to waterfront is a defining component of
value in urban housing."
With 35% of the average household's consumption dollars spent on
housing, a home is the single biggest purchase most people will ever
make. A home's value is ultimately determined by two factors: the
home as a physical place, and where the home is. The importance of
"where" is summed up in the old real estate adage "location,
location, location". The reason for the three "locations" is that
there are three dimensions to location , the neighbours,
accessibility, and the neighbourhood.
When you have a home, you get the neighbours, the people
who live in the rest of the building, or the rest of the block.
Considerate neighbours who endeavour to maintain and ensure the value
of their homes enhance the value of yours as well.
When you have a home, you also have transportation costs. The
relationship between transportation costs and home values explains
why two identical dwellings in identical neighbourhoods in different
parts of a city have different prices. A home that is easily
accessible to downtown, to shopping, entertainment, parks,
waterfront, and recreation is worth a lot more than an identical
dwelling that is on a crowded freeway away from it all.
When you have a home, you also have a neighbourhood. It is the
neighbourhood more than anything else that explains the difference in
value between homes throughout a metropolitan area. At one level, the
neighbourhood is defned by the design and characteristics of
the structures in it, as these set the tone of the area and give it
its image and "feel" as a community. At a deeper, fundamental level,
the neighbourhood is defned by its natural environment,
its views and vistas, its green spaces, and its waterfront.
What is it about access to waterfront that gives so much value to
housing? In every metropolitan region, access to water and to
waterfront has become a defning component of value in urban
housing. In Seattle, Toronto, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and
Vancouver, waterfront land is being reclaimed from industrial uses,
is being made accessible to people, and is becoming the defning
feature of communities. Waterfront offers uniqueness to homes in its
vicinity, giving access to vistas, openness, activity, change,
movement, diversity, and texture that no landscape can.
While structures can be duplicated and neighbours and
transportation cost changed, the waterfront remains, providing
uniqueness and value to homes in waterfront locations. For all
reasonable purposes, the supply of waterfront is fxed, its
limits defned by the interface between land and water. As this
region's population grows, the amount of waterfront will remain the
same. Homes that have access to waterfront are, each year, going to
be an ever-smaller portion of the region's housing stock. It is this
key factor that will continue to defne and protect their value.